Brexit referendum: Is the United Kingdom now facing a threat to its survival?

By: | Published: June 24, 2016 12:50 PM

The United Kingdom itself now faces a threat to its survival, as Scotland voted 62 percent in favour of staying in the EU and is likely to press for a new referendum on whether to become independent after its 2014 vote to stay in the UK.

brexitBritain’s vote to leave the European Union has very significant implications for Ireland and the European Union as a whole, the Irish government said ahead of an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday. (Reuters)

The United Kingdom itself now faces a threat to its survival, as Scotland voted 62 percent in favour of staying in the EU and is likely to press for a new referendum on whether to become independent after its 2014 vote to stay in the UK.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Thursday’s vote “makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union.”

Scotland voted by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent to remain in the European in a referendum on Thursday, putting it at sharply at odds with the United Kingdom as a whole, which voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave.

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Most voters in Northern Ireland also voted to remain and Irish nationalist leaders there called for a poll on leaving the United Kingdom and uniting with Ireland. Northern Ireland’s largest Irish nationalist party, Sinn Fein, said the result intensified the case for a vote on whether to quit the United Kingdom.

“This outcome tonight dramatically changes the political landscape here in the north of Ireland and we will be intensifying our case for the calling of a border poll” on a united Ireland, Sinn Fein chairman Declan Kearney said in a statement.

“We await the final UK-wide result, but Scotland has spoken – and spoken decisively,” said Sturgeon.

One key reason Scots rejected independence in a referendum almost three years ago was because independence meant leaving the EU too. Some Scots who wavered but eventually voted to stick with the UK in 2014, may now prefer to join the secessionists.

Splitting Scotland from the UK would end three centuries of shared history, upending another successful economic relationship shortly after the now-impending divorce between Britain and the EU.

Sturgeon would have to build a robust economic independence strategy to convince those emotionally persuaded in 2014 but not economically so.

She would also have to make sure that the maelstrom around Britain’s EU exit does not sweep away some of the support the SNP currently has.

There are other big factors hindering a divorce. One may be fears that a lightweight EU, without Britain, is a less attractive partner for Scotland, which sends two thirds of its output to the rest of the UK.

Another rests on concerns about what a border between England and Scotland would do to both security and the economy.

“It could be that in the panic that ensues after a British exit, some people might want to stick with what we still have,” said a lawmaker from the SNP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has very significant implications for Ireland and the European Union as a whole, the Irish government said ahead of an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday.

“This result clearly has very significant implications for Ireland, as well as for Britain and for the European Union,” a government statement said.

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